I hadn't heard that Jumper was being adapted into a film until Amazon recommended to me (because I'd purchased Reflex and Helm) Gould's latest book, Jumper: Griffin's Story, a "side-quel" slated for August 2007 release. The accompanying blurb explained that this was the story of Griffin, a fellow teleport played by Jamie Bell in the forthcoming film version of Jumper, a $100-million putative blockbuster set to come out next year. For all I was happy to see that the Billy Elliot star was involved, I was perplexed by the character description – knowing as I did the Davey met no other teleports in Jumper and was anxious about whether he was alone in his abilities.
Now the Bad News
My perplexity turned to alarm when I checked IMDb and learned that the actor signed last year to play Davey was Hayden Christensen, who replaced the relatively obscure Tom Sturridge (Like Minds) when they kicked the budget up a notch. It was partly because of Christensen's appalling performance in Episode III: Revenge of the Sith – particularly and especially his laughable professions of love for Padmé – that I walked out of the theater vowing I would never again willingly see that film. (The other reason was that the Emperor's seduction of Anakin to the Dark Side, a moment that should have been the culmination of all six films, was so thoroughly unconvincing as to amount to a betrayal.) To belatedly discover that he was slated to play Davey Rice was the worst news I got all week.
I delved frantically for positive news and found smidgens of hope. The director is Doug Liman, best known now for the stylish shoot-em-ups Mr. & Mrs. Smith and Bourne Identity; but I hope people still remember that he did the 1999 indie Go, one of my favorite all-time non-sci-fi films. The screenplay is from David Goyer, who did likewise for Batman Begins and the fantastic Dark City, as well as the Blade films. Aside from Bell and Christensen, the cast also includes Samuel L. Jackson, Diane Lane, and Tom Hulce (!).
Liman seems to be exploiting the globetrotting the Davey does in the book into Bond/Bourne-style action travelogue material, shooting key scenes on location in famous cities (including an unprecedented three-day schoot in Rome's Coliseum, according to the Hollywood Reporter). Despite setting up Jumper as the first in an effects-laden trilogy, though, Liman complained last month in Amsterdam that action flicks are becoming like porno films that use dialogue link the action sequences – which is certainly true enough. "I want to make films that stand up without the action bits in them, and this is what I am doing with this film," Liman said.
The Bright Side
So here I am trying to look forward to this film, for all it stars one of my least favorite actors. Liman and Goyer have shown they have the chops to make this kind of movie – an action/adventure sci-fi/fantasy with a conflicted hero. And then there's the fact that Natalie Portman was also terrible in those Episode III: Revenge of the Sith love scenes, and yet she's proven elsewhere (say, Garden State) that she can act. If I can assuage my doubts about Christensen by transferring them to the subpar writing and direction of all-purpose punching-bag George Lucas, then maybe, just maybe, I can believe I'll walk out of this film willing to see it again.
Is there anything to generalize here about approaching the filming of beloved material with a less-than-ideal cast? Only that it's important to remember that sometimes mediocre actors can be directed beyond our expectations, as I hope will be the case here.
Interesting alternate universe fact: apparently Eminem turned down the role before Christensen took it, according to WENN. Eminem may have a deplorable attitude toward women and gay people, but as an actor his potential is largely untapped; that's a film I would have seen out of sheer curiosity.